Monday, 18 December 2006

Barry's Blog 8

This year has been fascinating; I started it as a retired person, not expecting to re-enter long term employment again. I end it having been in my second career over six months and just about feeling that I know what is going on. In the same six months I have moved house and had a son get married, so it has been quite hectic.

It has also been a busy time at the office. Personally, after remembering everyone's name, the challenge has been getting to grips with an organisation that has been around for so long; my first Board meeting, first AGM etc. I have tried very hard not to be the typical wielder of a new broom. Any organisation with the history of the EBU deserves to be understood before changes are considered; so after that necessary due consideration, we have made some changes to the way we deal with master points and we are now working on a membership management project, which I am confident will be to the benefit of everyone, removing many historical problems that have plagued Aylesbury/County relationships for a very long time.

I joined the EBU in full knowledge that many of our members have been very critical over a long period. Indeed, I had my own checklist of complaints. So during my first period here it was no surprise to have to field many communications from my fellow members, critical of a wide variety of things

Now that I do understand the organisation from within I have a slightly different view. Some members believe that they pay too much for membership, something I cannot agree with; forty pence per week of anybody's money is not very much. I have heard people say that the EBU offers "jobs for the boys", something else that is quite wrong. People criticise expenditure on our International teams; our next meeting with shareholders in February will be concentrating on this vexatious issue. Of course, changes to playing procedures have been a reason for many a letter or email. These changes will be reviewed in the near future.

The Board has had a sub committee working VERY hard on membership development and the time has now come to decide the future of the English Bridge Union. In my opinion, we are at an absolute crossroads. We must urgently do what we can to arrest what has been a declining membership, in line with the declining demographics of bridge worldwide. The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and all the Board members are very forward looking and intent on ensuring the future of the EBU.

The membership development team's new ideas will help formulate the next steps we are to take in our redevelopment of the Union. I suspect that some very important decisions will be taken in 2007 which will determine our future. It will be necessary for everyone to have an open mind when considering what is presented to them. We must have the vision to look five or ten years forward to safeguard our game for our children and grandchildren.

As a first step, we have started our "Focus on Value" project which places Teachers and Clubs firmly at the centre of the EBU universe. The new initiative has been devised to give bridge teachers the tools to create their own playing communities and to help them structure their courses so that their students can club together and enjoy their game beyond the classroom. There has been a great response to the call for Partner Teachers in the December issue of English Bridge, and we hope that many more of you will apply to join the courses taking place in the Spring. For more information on the courses email Lisa at the office and ask for our info booklet.

A lot of members have indicated interest in a "player rating"; I am quite keen to investigate a scheme (alongside master points) for providing all active players with a rating that is generated from their actual performance. My online club, Bridgeclublive, uses such a scheme and it is very good. The system would necessarily be heavily reliant on technology and this is a potential drawback, as we have a lot of different scoring programs in use around the country. If anyone has a good idea about such a scheme I would certainly like to hear about it.

Our survey (warts and all, it was our first attempt) has produced almost 2,000 responses which is truly excellent, making the results very useful. The survey does not close until January 14th, so if you have not submitted your response yet perhaps you can find some time over the holiday period to do so. Click here for more information and to go to the online version.

As was customary at the start of my blogging life, I need to clarify something from a previous blog. In my last one I mentioned that the EBU's attempt at a scoring and membership system (CASS) was a failure. The project as a whole did prove to be a failure but does not reflect at all on any person involved in developing the software and no criticism of any individual was intended.

I will be at the London end-of-year Congress and will be happy to discuss anything with members in between my miserable attempts at winning green points.

I would like to offer Seasons Greetings to all Members, my staff in Aylesbury, our webmaster(s) Anna and Mark and all of the many volunteers who help keep our organisation running. 2007 is going to be a year of very important change for the English Bridge Union. I do hope it is a happy and healthy New Year for all. I look forward to it with great interest.